FARGO — Managing a gym and being a mom and wife requires skill, patience and support all the time, but during a global pandemic, Fargo mom Kristen Burbank finds a little bit of grace, flexibility and mindfulness.
Burbank, who lives in Fargo with her husband and two daughters, owns a popular yoga studio, Mojo Fit, which has been offering a variety of classes to the community for more than six years. It currently has two locations — Mojo West and Mojo North.
This March, when the first coronavirus case was confirmed, Burbank made the difficult decision to close the gym to prevent the spread of the novel virus.
"We made the very difficult decision to close the studio prior to the official shutdowns on March 16, 2020. We had several classes on the schedule that were at full capacity. At the time, we felt it was the safest option for students and teachers to close doors," she said.
While Burbank hoped the shutdown would only last 14 days, she knew it in her heart the doors would stay closed for longer.
"I remember tears streaming down my face as I drafted that shutdown communication to clients," she said. "The studio has been a place of comfort, stress management and release for so many of the Mojo clients. I felt like we were leaving them when they needed us most."
During the following months, Burbank, with her team of yoga teachers, transitioned their business model to virtual classes where they taught several classes a day. At the end of May, Burbank, following updated Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, was able to reopen Mojo West and then Mojo North at the end of June.
"Now that we are open at 35% capacity, we continue with what we consider to be a hybrid studio model that is partial in-studio and virtual class offerings," she said.
Besides the reduced capacity, Burbank said she and her team "has never cleaned so much in their lives."
"I am hyper-aware of how close clients are to one another, and I have this nagging voice in the back of my head asking how long will this go on. I didn’t ever visualize Mojo getting into the virtual space, but today we are fully engaged in this hybrid business model," she said.
Like many others, Burbank said her life has been turned upside down, and this summer many of her plans couldn't go forward .
"There are some days that are really stressful and other days I’m grateful for the personal reset. Our two girls are thriving with less activities, and we are enjoying more time for free play as a family. Due to the current restrictions, both studio locations are maxed at a 35% class capacity," she said.
Burbank said although the capacity restrictions cause a revenue decrease, on the positive side, she's had the opportunity to spend more time on new client marketing.
During the mandatory business shutdowns, through reduced capacity and now as she gets ready to face the new school year, Burbank said she feels grateful for her team.
"I think for all of us staying connected, especially in those cold, isolated spring days, the virtual class connection was a game changer. It was an opportunity for teachers and students to stay in connection with one another and to build new connections. At this point, we have clients participating in virtual classes from all over the country."
Burbank said it's these connections that sustain her, even during the worst of days.
"If I could name one thing that has kept me moving forward during the difficult days, it would hands-down be the support and energy from our clients and instructors," she said. "But I wouldn’t say I embraced the online teaching concept right away."
When some of her regular clients requested Mojo Fit studios try to do some type of virtual class so they could practice, she put a one-time free class on the schedule.
"I was taken back by the attendance and the demand for future classes. I was even more taken back by the number of clients that offered to keep their memberships active as a donation to the virtual programming and studio expenses during the shutdown," she said.
Burbank said because a significant percentage of clients kept their memberships, she was able to cover the costs of offering virtual classes to all for free.
"It was a true testament to our Mojo community, and even though everything else was in chaos, this Mojo community became a constant for us all," she said. "We met over zoom daily in classes, we connected before and after, and some of us even lost weight during the shutdowns because we had the time to fully commit to our workout routines."
Burbank knows during a global pandemic, restrictions and social distancing is the new normal, so she advises people to be patient.
"Be patient with your local gyms and studios. Many of us use similar client management systems there were never designed to adjust to massive membership and policy changes," she said. "In some cases, systems have implemented patch fixes to help, but it is not always perfect. We are doing very best to make sure changes and adjustments are done in a fair and timely fashion."